Eureka men's basketball falls in Texas
The Eureka College men's basketball team led by as many as seven points early in Thursday's non-conference game versus NCAA Division I member Texas-Pan American, but the Broncs rallied midway through the first half and eventually earned a 92-64 victory over the Red Devils at UTPA Fieldhouse in Edinburg, Texas.
The Red Devils (3-5) started the contest with a flurry, scoring seven consecutive points and taking a 9-2 lead on a 3-pointer from senior forward Dustin Fritsch (Sterling/Sterling H.S./Sauk Valley) with 15:48 left in the opening half. After trading the lead once, Eureka was able to lead as late as the 6:44 mark of the first half.
The Broncs (3-7) took the lead for good, 27-26, on an interior bucket from Jesus Delgado. The basket came as part of a 32-18 surge to close half, as the Broncs' 10-point halftime lead (49-39) was their biggest advantage of the first 20 minutes.
Eureka put together an accurate shooting performance from long range in the first half, going 6-for-9 from beyond the 3-point arc. Senior center Mark Lessen (Delavan/Delavan H.S.), playing for the first time in more than two weeks, paced Eureka with 13 points and four blocked shots in the first 20 minutes.
The Broncs' lead swelled to 21 points, 66-45, shortly after halftime, but Eureka fought back with a 7-0 blitz behind five points from senior guard Rian Nailor (Rock Falls/Rock Falls H.S./Sauk Valley). The quick run allowed Eureka to claw back within 14, 66-52, with 9:22 left. UTPA answered by scoring nine of the next 10 points and wasn't challenged for the rest of the night.
Lessen poured in a game-high 17 points. He also led the Red Devils with eight rebounds and matched a career-high with five blocked shots. Senior center D.T. Thornton (Normal/Normal West H.S./Carl Sandburg) came off the bench to reach double-figures with 13 points, while senior guard Jordan Fehr (Roanoke/Roanoke-Benson H.S.) added 11 in his first start of the season.
Justin Leathers scored 14 points to lead the hosts. The Broncs had four players score in double-figures and outrebounded the Red Devils, 46-25. UTPA also enjoyed a 54-32 advantage on points scored in the paint and yielded only six second-chance points.
Thursday's defeat dropped the Red Devils to 0-5 all-time versus active member of NCAA Division I. Eureka took on another Division I test Monday when the Red Devils returned to action at SIUE.
The Eureka College men's basketball team brought its season-long four-game road swing to a close Monday night. The matchup marked Eureka's second game against a Division I school in five days.
Monday's game renewed a non-conference rivalry between the Red Devils and Cougars that saw 12 meetings in Edwardsville between 1988 and 2000. SIUE, then playing as a member of NCAA Division II, won all 12 games.
Following Thursday's loss at Texas-Pan American, the Red Devils are 0-5 all-time against NCAA Division I opponents. Eureka has played at least one Division I foe in three of the last four seasons. The current campaign marks the second consecutive season in which Eureka has played two Division I opponents in the same season.
Senior center Mark Lessen entered Monday's game with 498 career rebounds, needing only two boards to become the first Red Devil to reach 500 career rebounds since former teammate Michael Zasada reached the plateau during the 2008-09 campaign.